Sustainability Drinks is a series of regular events and get-togethers held in Berlin, Germany where any person or organization involved in, or wanting to promote, any aspect of sustainable development is free to attend and participate. The event series is organized by GreenBuzz Berlin, an association to promote an active sustainability movement in Germany’s capital. To boost the vision of an active sustainability movement, GreenBuzz Berlin is part of GreenBuzz Global, a platform connecting local initiatives in a worldwide network that offers the possibility to engage, to connect, to start cross-border initiatives or projects, and to learn from one another.
At the Sustainability Drinks events in Berlin, held approximately every six weeks, guest speakers are invited to showcase their sustainable ideas and innovations, panel debates highlight different challenges and views relating to a particular developmental challenge, and attendees are given the opportunity to make a short pitch outlining their sustainable concept and/or product and put forward what they require in order to make it a reality. The events, often attended by up to 200 people, also provide an opportunity for like-minded people to come together in an informal manner, network, and discuss issues that are of importance to them or that were raised during the formal events. Co-founder of GreenBuzz Berlin and their Sustainability Drinks, Marco Blumendorf, believes that “our events connect people in a comfortable and inspiring atmosphere and foster networking for Berlin’s sustainable future. People realise that they are working for a mutual cause and thus motivate each other. Many ideas and initiatives have originated at our events which I am sure would also work in other parts of the world.”
An example of a sustainable product that the Drinks events have showcased recently is Fairphone, a social enterprise company striving to change people’s understanding of their cell phones and their environmental impact. To date, over 60,000 phones have been sold around the world and the company will soon release its second edition smartphone (Fairphone 2). According to its website, Fairphone is “making a positive impact across the value chain in mining, design, manufacturing, and life cycle, while expanding the market for products that put ethical values first.”
In the production stage, Fairphone strives to integrate materials and resources obtained from conflict-free, militia-free local communities including conflict-free minerals from the Democratic Republic of Congo. At the design level, Fairphone is “focusing on longevity and repairability [in order] to extend the phone’s useable life and give buyers more control over their products.” Users are able to purchase individual components of a smartphone to replace damaged or scratched parts thereby saving them the need to replace their phone entirely. Furthermore, they are encouraging phone owners to properly recycle their phones in order to avoid unnecessary waste in landfills. Currently, Fairphone is working with partners in Ghana to set up projects whereby discarded mobile phones will be transported to Europe for safe recycling. They are also paying their factory workers fair wages in line with industry standards and providing them with safe working conditions and worker representation.
The well-established Berlin branch of Greenbuzz, has been operating for over two years, and continues to grow in popularity. With the incredible array of innovation, entrepreneurship, and creativity present all over the African continent there exists an amazing opportunity to replicate the concept in many African countries. While many people and organisations develop great concepts, ideas, and products, what often is lacking is the chance to showcase their products. If they are able to do so, to an audience passionate about sustainable development, this could enable them to showcase their ideas and products in a low-cost way, make valuable connections and networks, and educate others about sustainable innovations being developed across the African continent. The importance of sustainability networks has also been acknowledged by worldwide players. Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever and Chairman of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development says, “more than ever, communities like GreenBuzz are giving passionate leaders the opportunity to draw on each other’s strength and experiences to drive to a more sustainable and equitable world. At a time that we need more leaders and trees, GreenBuzz is a welcome addition that I fully endorse.”